Hailey Genest has seen most of her friends marry and have babies, and she’s happy for them, but it was a lot easier before she hit forty. She’s spent her entire life in Whitford, Maine, and if she hasn’t found her Prince Charming by now, she has to accept she’s probably not going to. When a new friend suggests they go on an adventure and embrace being single, Hailey agrees.
Surviving in the woods is game warden Matt Barnett’s idea of a relaxing vacation. But when he meets two women in need of help, he leads them back to safety—a task that proves more fun than expected, thanks to a certain hot blonde. He can’t resist pushing her buttons, even though she’s made it clear that the rugged, outdoorsy type just isn’t for her.
Hailey is glad to see the back of her tempting-tour-guide-slash-pain-in-the-ass. When he shows up in her life again, she’s determined to avoid him, no matter how good he looks in his uniform. But that’s easier said than done in Whitford, especially when he’s renting the house right next door…
There are two things that set TAKEN WITH YOU apart from the first seven books in the Kowalski series. I guess the first, and most obvious, is that neither the hero nor the heroine has the last name Kowalski. But Hailey, the heroine, has been a big part of the series and, not only did readers want her to have a happily ever after, but I did, too. And there are plenty of Kowalskis running amok in the book.
The other major difference is Bear. He’s a black Lab and, if you’ve read the blurb and know Matt Barnett (the hero) is a game warden, you might think he’s a K-9. He’s not. Bear just doesn’t want to work that hard. He does, however, have the distinction of being the first pet in the Kowalski series.
I never gave any deliberate thought to the having or not having of pets in the series. Two of my non-Kowalski holiday novellas have pets—Kojak the German Shepherd in Holiday Sparks and Moxie the cat in Mistletoe & Margaritas—but for some reason none of the Kowalski books have had four-legged secondary characters.
Matt Barnett, the new game warden in Whitford, came to me complete with his sidekick, again without any deliberate consideration on my part. Matt and Bear were a package deal and that was that.
I have pets, so it surprises me a little there aren’t more furry friends in my books. I have two cats (Gizmo and Jinx) and two dogs: a Shih Tzu (Mini) and a Bolo-Noodle (Taz). (He’s Bolognese and toy Poodle.) But there’s also a part of me that thinks juggling romance and animals is not easy.
There’s a good chance if I’d had this crew before I met my husband, I’d still be single. Cats are notorious for not liking strangers, and mine are no exception. They also like to walk by your mug of fresh, hot coffee and give themselves a good shake. My husband is not really a cat person and is very much a coffee person, so that could have been the end right there. And little white lap dogs are notoriously excitable and resistant to training. Mini obeys one command: “Get out of my seat” and Taz responds to “Get your ball” (though not to “Drop the ball”) and “For goodness sake, Taz, let her finish peeing first!” It takes many, many visits to my house before the incessant yapping stops. They also own the bed, so that’s a problem. And Taz demands any and all affection be given only to him. The last time my husband gave me a quick hug, he got bit in the butt by a very jealous Bolo-Noodle. I can only imagine trying to set a romance in my house would lead to the hero yelling “What is wrong with you and your dogs? And your cats?” and leaving.
It’s probably no accident my two fictional dogs have been a German Shepherd and a black Lab. I’ve known and loved several dogs belonging to those breeds, including the real Kojak, who was my aunt and uncle’s Shepherd, and Dixie, my sister and her family’s Lab. Great dogs. So awesome and well-behaved. They don’t freak right the heck out if you tell them to go to their beds so you can have a little cuddle time with your man. (Also, they have their own beds because they’ll settle for less than owning the master bedroom.)
While I wouldn’t trade my babies for anything, I did find myself wishing a few times while writing TAKEN WITH YOU that Bear was real. And mine. When I first started writing, I had a note on my plotting graph that said in big letters DON’T FORGET THE DOG, but I needn’t have worried. Bear’s a great dog and the book wouldn’t have been the same without him. I hope you all love him, too!
How do you feel about pets in books? Do you like them? Dislike them? Neutral? And do you have a preference of dogs or cats? Goats? Ferrets?
For the chance to win a $50 gift card to the online bookstore of your choice just leave a comment below answering Shannon’s question. Good luck! And to read an excerpt and find buy links for Taken With You, visit shannonstacey.com.